One of my favorite books is called “Authentic Faith.” It is written by Gary Thomas. I like him. I like the things that God has given him to say. They aren’t fluffy or comfortable things. They are tough things. They are wise things.
The description of “Authentic Faith,” according to Amazon.com, is below.
“Many Christian books address spiritual growth, but few have as much potential for impact as this book by Thomas (Sacred Marriage and Sacred Pathways), a veteran writer and speaker in evangelical Christian circles as well as a teacher of spiritual formation at Western Seminary. Thomas is able to communicate many deep insights from the heritage of classical Christian faith in a cultural and spiritual idiom that will resonate well with evangelicals. Rather than discussing the traditional spiritual disciplines (e.g., fasting, prayer or Bible study), Thomas focuses on the spiritual disciplines that are initiated by God rather than by believers: selflessness, waiting, endurance, persecution, social mercy, forgiveness, mourning, contentment, sacrifice, and rewards and punishments. Each chapter explores a discipline with memorable illustrations, Scriptural foundations, insights from classical Christian writers and references to current life situations and struggles. Thomas's discussion of mourning as a spiritual discipline is particularly insightful: "Mourning invites us to a deeper life," he explains. "It takes us beyond the surface to give us a glimpse of the world as God sees it." Despite the difficult nature of many of the topics, the book offers an overarching sense of a deep joy and meaning that can be obtained by seeking God through life's darkest times. Thomas provides an unusually compassionate discussion of many painful circumstances, offering a fresh perspective of wisdom and hope.”
Selflessness. Waiting. Endurance. Persecution. Social Mercy. Forgiveness. Mourning. Contentment. Sacrifice. Rewards and Punishments. Why do I like this book? Sounds pretty depressing, I know, but the truth is that God is in all of these disciplines. God can use them if we allow Him. God can and does take what is tragic and difficult and make it beautiful and glorious. I think that all of us have a longing for something deeper. We are drawn to stories of tragedy and triumph. Our hearts long for drama. God made us this way. It is sometimes hard to recognize when we are in the midst of our own struggles, I know it is for me…. But part of us WANTS to struggle. The Holy Spirit in us is ready for the fight. Our flesh tells us that we are weak and afraid. Our God tells us we are overcomers, more than conquerors. We have a daily choice to believe ourselves or our God. And when we choose our God…. WOW. Those triumphs are glorious. When we know it was HE who overcame, it is amazing. It is awe-inspiring. God has drawn us in and allowed us to see the big picture, HIS big picture, HIS story. We’ve succeeded in an opportunity to play a part. Praise Him for letting us be a part of His big picture!
There was a story in this book that particularly struck a cord with me. Thomas was writing about the Christian call to social mercy. He was telling of a group of Christians in Africa who were ambushed and killed inside a church building. A terrorist group tortured and murdered many of them. AND GOD WAS THERE. God was in that church building, hearing His people call to Him for mercy. He released them and took them home to be with Him, but HE SAW IT. He was there. He was in it. THIS is why God cares about social mercy. HE’S THERE. God is everywhere. He sits with the child dying of malnutrition and His heart breaks for her. He is with her. He knows that His other children can help her. He is DESPERATE for His other children to help her. Can you imagine sitting with your own starving children and not being desperate for help, for action? That is the position that our God is in.
This story made me think of something that Francis Chan is passionate about, and discusses in his book, “Forgotten God.” God placed the horrific crime of child trafficking heavy on his heart. He has been called crazy for how passionately he pursues the rescue and release of these children. Why is he crazy? Because God allowed Francis to see these children as if they were his own physical daughters! I WOULD STOP AT NOTHING TO RESCUE MY CHILDREN. We would ALL be crazy. We would fight. JUSTICE would prevail.
So, ignore the excuses that “we can’t save them all, we can only do so much, we are ill-equipped, someone else is doing it.” GOD WANTS JUSTICE FOR HIS CHILDREN. GOD WANTS RESCUE FOR HIS CHILDREN.
“The condition for a miracle is difficulty, however the condition for a great miracle is not difficulty, but impossibility.” – Faith Like Potatoes
Cultivate a faith of substance. Act. Be crazy. Rescue. Overcome. Be part of the impossible. Do something, anything. Faith without works is dead. WE ARE ALIVE!
So here are some small things you can do.
1. Sponsor a child through Compassion International or World Vision. http://www.compassion.com/, http://www.worldvision.org/
2. Check out World Vision’s gift catalog. http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?go=gift&§ion=10389
3. Give shoes to Tied Together! (Contact ME!)
4. Collect cans for this family who is trying to adopt a baby. http://thehicksfamily2003.blogspot.com/2010/03/our-journeys-new-beginning-save-can.html
5. Give to your church.
6. Serve in or give to the homeless, the City Rescue Mission, Trinity Rescue Mission, or the Sulzbacher Center. http://www.crmjax.org/, http://www.trinityrescue.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=77022 , http://www.sulzbachercenter.org/
7. Volunteer at a pregnancy crisis center. http://www.fcws.org/
8. Become a big brother or big sister. http://www.bbbs.org/site/c.okLXJ7MMKpH/b.3538189/k.3E12/Big_Brothers_Big_Sisters_of_Northeast_Florida.htm
9. Shop at thrift stores! http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf (There are lots.)
10. Pray. Give someone a hug. Tell someone you love them. Do more than complain about the way things are. Take action. CHANGE the way things are.
11. And lots more…. If you’ve got something people can do, feel free to post it below!